GREAT FALLS — James Cameron McNeely of Browning, the former operations manager for the Blackfeet Tribe, has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors who charged him with stealing federal COVID relief funding from the tribe.
In accordance with the plea agreement, signed on January 2, 2024, McNeely will plead guilty to the charge of theft from an Indian tribal goverment receiving federal funding. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, McNeely must pay "complete restitution."
In exchange for pleading guilty, all other charges against McNeely will be dropped.
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(NOVEMBER 28, 2023) James Cameron McNeely of Browning, the former operations manager for the Blackfeet Tribe, was arraigned in federal court in Great Falls on Tuesday, November 28, 2023, on charges accusing him of stealing federal COVID relief funding the tribe received.
According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, from October 2021 through October 2022, McNeely was working as Operations Manager for the Blackfeet Tribe.
During that time, he requested reimbursement for more than $78,000 of purchases from Amazon for COVID supplies and other items for the tribe.
McNeely is accused of not purchasing those items as he claimed but still receiving and keeping the money from the tribe. He is also alleged to have submitted photographs of his Amazon shopping cart and quotes from a local business to make the claims appear legitimate.
Click here to read the full indictment (PDF).
U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a news release that McNeely, 43 years old, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funding, wire fraud, and theft from an Indian tribal organization.
McNeely was released pending further proceedings.
The news release notes that an indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.